Boone has ever been noted for its pioneer spirit, and no such spirit was stronger than that of Velma Rose Burnley.

Burnley may have died on March 19 at the age of 97, but long will she be remembered in our community.

Of course, there is the Clawson-Burnley Park, a beautiful green space and Boone Greenway connector that bears her name.

But there is more, much more.

More as in the woman who, after college, blazed her own trail to rise to a position of authority in the banking industry.

More as in serving as Boone’s first female mayor — a position she held for 16 years.

More as in taking on myriad public roles: on Boone’s Town Council, on the area board for Rural Economic Development, as president of the Boone Area Chamber of Commerce and as a founding member of the Watauga County Humane Society.

Like our true first pioneers, Burnley did not do these things for personal recognition. As her daughter and many of us remember, she did these things for the betterment of our community. She did them because she believed that such works were her life’s calling.

Because she believed that, our area is a much better, much richer place that we call home, today.

As a role model, inspiration, individualist and philanthropist, Burnley was the epitome of the pioneer. She has left us a legacy worthy of such a poignant description.

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